You know the feeling - you have people round at your burgeoning smart home, when suddenly, out of nowhere, your friend's annoying partner asks Amazon Alexa an inane question. You understand the assistant's limitations; you know there's no way it has the capacity to respond.
The blue ring spins. You're panicking. It keeps spinning. Alexa exclaims it has no idea, and you begin gazing deeply within the blue hue of the smart speaker's faux-mind and offer the look of a disappointed parent, or an owner whose pet has just pissed on the kitchen floor.
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But this all too familiar heart-sinker is soon to be a thing of the past, with Amazon confirming that a new feature, Answer Update, is set to to arrive to its Alexa devices. With the new feature, if you ask Alexa a question and it doesn't have the information at the time to respond, it can save the query and inform you at a later date.
First uncovered by Voicebot, the user asked for more information about a news item and Alexa replied by saying it doesn't have the answer. Instead of going quiet and leaving the user to mentally sift through the debris of rejection, though, Alexa instead asked whether the user wanted to activate Answer Updates. When asked to define the feature, Alexa said: "If you ask me a question and I donāt know the answer, but I find out later, Iāll notify you."
This is different, of course, to the current responses, which include āI canāt find the answer to the question I heard" and āI donāt know that, but Iām always learning". With the new feature, we'll instead see Alexa essentially tell you to leave a question with her before sending an on-device notification once it's learned the answer.
As Amazon staff continue to fill in the gaps in Alexa's brain, the opt-in feature will be rolled out randomly to users. It should be readily available to all owners within the next week or so, and you can check if your smart speaker already has the feature simply by asking to turn it on.